John Gibbons and his Toronto Blue Jays have struggled to begin 2017.
Last year’s American League Divisional Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers was an intense playoff series. After the Blue Jays dropped the first two games of the series at home, they would win the next two games on the road to force a decisive fifth game in Toronto. The game was an intense contest that would ultimately be decided in the bottom of the seventh inning when Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus committed three errors. This would open the door for a four-run inning for the Blue Jays which was capped off when outfielder Jose Bautista launched a three-run homer that brought the folks at the Rogers Centre to their feet. But Bautista’s home run would also bring the Rangers to their feet as they were offended by his initial gesture after hitting the homer.
Before proceeding around the bases, Bautista would stare at the Rangers dugout and then slam his bat down in their direction. This would see both benches clear before cooler heads prevailed. The Blue Jays would go on to win the game, and the series, but Bautista’s gesture would be something that was on the minds of the Rangers heading into 2016.
The Jays and Rangers each entered the 2016 Major League Baseball season as playoff contenders which put more importance on their meetings. After the Blue Jays took three out of four games from the Rangers in Toronto in early May, these two clubs would meet later on that month, but in Arlington.
There was peace between both teams until the eighth inning when of the series finale when Bautista was hit by a pitch from Rangers relief pitcher Matt Bush which was celebrated by the fans in Arlington. Later on in the inning, Bautista found himself trying break up a double play a second place. And when Bautista arrived at second base, he encountered Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor.
Odor let his fist do the talking as he still had last October on his mind. And although that Bautista wasn’t ready to throw down with Odor, this led to a bench-clearing altercation between both clubs.
In Texas, Odor was hailed a hero as fans adored him and a restaurant there even offered him free barbecue for life after he delivered some chin music to Bautista. But Major League Baseball wasn’t thrilled with Odor showing off his boxing skills as they suspended him for eight games. Odor would appeal and his suspension was reduced to seven games, but the Jays wouldn’t get another crack at the Rangers in the regular season.
Coming down the stretch of the regular season, the Rangers separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the American League West as they were seeking their second consecutive division title. Not only did the Rangers win the A.L. West, but they also beat out the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians for the best record on the Junior Circuit which meant home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Blue Jays on the other hand found themselves in a grueling battle with the Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Yankees for the top spot in the American League East. But coming down the stretch it was the Red Sox who were able to distance themselves from the pack to win the division which left Toronto scrapping for a wild card berth.
In the season’s final weekend, the Blue Jays would secure a wild card berth and they were set to host the Orioles in the American League’s Wild Card Game. And just like the O’s and Jays did all year long, they would engage in an grueling battle that came down to the very end. In the bottom of the eleventh inning, Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion would launch a three-run home run off of Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to send Toronto to the American League Division Series. And the team that would be waiting for the Jays in the ALDS, would be the Rangers.
Most people expected another epic five-game showdown between these two clubs, but it was the Blue Jays that set the tone in Game One as they chased Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels in a 10-1 throttling of Texas. After the Blue Jays win, they had taken home-field advantage away from the Rangers, and in the process had won three consecutive road playoff games against them. But Toronto wasn’t satisfied as they beat the Rangers 5-3 in Game 2 which meant that they were headed home just needing to secure one win in order to advance to the American League Championship Series for a second consecutive year.
The Blue Jays headed into bottom of the first inning trailing 1-0, but they would quickly respond as Encarnacion hit a two-run homer, and catcher Russell Martin followed it up as he hit a solo blast. The Jays would build a 5-2 lead before the Rangers would mount a comeback which was led by Odor.
Odor hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning to cut the Texas deficit to one run as he didn’t have a problem playing the role of the villain in front of nearly 50,000 screaming fans in Toronto at the Rogers Centre. The Rangers would then take the lead in the sixth inning after a double by first baseman Mitch Moreland plated a pair of runs. But the Blue Jays would rally in the bottom of the frame when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki scored on a passed ball by catcher Jonathan Lucroy. And just like the Wild Card Game against Baltimore, the Jays once again found themselves heading to extra innings in a game that would send them to the next round if they won.
The game and the series would be decided in the bottom of the tenth when a 6-4-3 double play couldn’t be executed by the Rangers. Andrus’ feed to Odor who was covering second base was off which led to Odor making a bad throw to first base. Moreland couldn’t make the catch at first base as the ball got away from him which resulted in Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson scoring from second base to end the series.
It was poetic justice for the Blue Jays as their victory was the result of the two players in Odor and Andrus that were at the center of the fight this past summer had to eat crow. And although that the Jays threw hands with the Rangers, they got their revenge in the postseason as they ended Texas’ postseason for the second consecutive year in a row.
The Rangers-Blue Jays rivalry doesn’t have the juice around Major League Baseball as those of the Chicago Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals, or the Yankees-Red Sox, but over the last two years these two clubs have met when all of the chips have been pushed to the middle of the table.
Bautista might not have been willing to get it on with Odor that afternoon, but his teammates had his back this October as the Rangers pitching staff never had an answer for Encarnacion who batted .417, or the Toronto bullpen that shut down their lineup which had been one of the best in baseball.
Toronto has now won six consecutive playoff games against the Rangers, and as they are prepping to face the Indians in the American League Championship Series, the Rangers are once again pondering what could have been as they won’t pick up the baseballs again to February when the Cactus League rolls around. And as Bautista will still be looked at as a villain in North Texas, he won’t have a problem wearing the black hat if it leads to a World Series Title.
The Toronto Blue Jays have been a Major League Baseball franchise for 40 years and they have had their fare share of feared sluggers that have suited up for them. The Blue Jays rose to prominence in the 1980’s with the power bats of Jesse Barfield and George Bell being a big part of it. The Blue Jays would win consecutive World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993 with Joe Carter providing the pop in the middle of their lineup. Since then the Blue Jays have had sluggers such as Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado who is the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs with 336, but none of these solid power hitters were able to do what is currently going on north of the border.
The Jays have one of the most feared lineups in Major League Baseball as it is the modern day murderers row for power hitters. For years the Blue Jays lineup was paced by outfielder Jose Baustista and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion as they have been regular participants at MLB’s All-Star Game. But to duo of Encarnacion and Bautista wasn’t enough to get the Jays to the postseason.
Prior to the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, former Blue Jays general Alex Anthopoulos executed a trade that saw Toronto acquire All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Oakland Athletics. And in the Donaldson’s first year in Toronto, he became a household name along with becoming one of the most popular athletes in Canada as he became the first Blue Jays player since Bell in 1987 to be named as the American League MVP by hitting 41 homers while driving in 123 runs.
With Donaldson in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup with Bautista and Encarnacion, they were more potent as they began to get into contention. And the cherry on top for the Blue Jays was just prior to the Major League Baseball trade deadline last year when they acquired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies. With the Rockies, Tulowitzki was a five-time All-Star, along with hitting at least 20 home runs in a season six times and he fit right into the Toronto lineup.
The Blue Jays would hit 232 home runs which was tops in the American League in 2015 with Encarnacion, Bautista, and Donaldson all hitting at least 39 home runs which was a big part of Toronto winning the A.L. East for the first time since 1993. And after falling short of the World Series last October by two games, the Blue Jays have picked up right where they left off in the power department here in 2016.
Bautista and Donaldson are each on the verge of reaching the 20-homer plateau and the calendar has yet to hit July. And as Bautista and Tulowitzki have yet to get it going like they have in year’s past, there’s is a new power bat that is emerging for Toronto.
As outfielder Michael Saunders is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, he is enjoying the finest year of his Major League Baseball career. So far this year Saunders has hit 15 home runs to go along with 32 runs batted in which has been highlighted by hitting 3 homers while driving in 8 runs last Thursday against the Baltimore Orioles. And Saunders has joined the law firm of Donaldson, Encarnacion, Bautista, and Tulowitzki which has kept the Blue Jays afloat in playoff contention in the American League.
After a 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on May 29, the Blue Jays found themselves with a record of 26-26. But since then Toronto is 14-8 with series wins over the Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Yankees who happen to be their primary competition in the American League East. The bats have led the way here in June for the Blue Jays as they have seven games in which they’ve scored at least 7 runs, while they are third in the A.L. in home runs (107), and fifth in slugging percentage (.435)
The Blue Jays record of 40-34 currently has them in third place in the American League East behind the Orioles and Red Sox, but they are just 2.5 games out of first place while also possessing the second wild card spot in the A.L. And with a potent offense like Toronto has, it gives Blue Jays president of baseball operations Mark Shapiro more flexibility in seeking to make a trade to boost the team’s postseason chances as they are not lacking in the power category.
It’s nearly two hours that separates Toronto from Niagara Falls. But you wouldn’t know that when you see the Blue Jays offense clicking on all cylinders as they could be the Ontario Power Generation since they provide the electricity that can light up the city’s skyline.
X-Toronto Blue Jays 88-74 (3)
Excitement returned to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015 as they won the American League East in route to their first trip to the postseason since 1993 and in the process, they captivated the entire nation of Canada. The Blue Jays are eager to get back to it as they fell two wins short of winning the AL Pennant and they are hopeful that it won’t take another 22 years to get back to postseason baseball. In a surprise move, Alex Anthopoulos stepped down as the Blue Jays general manager after he was the architect of the team’s turnaround. It’s not known whether or not that the arrival as Mark Shapiro as the Jays new president of baseball operations last summer led to the departure of Anthopolous in Toronto, but Ross Atkins will be the team’s new general manager in 2016.
If you’re a fan of offensive baseball, and more importantly the long ball, then you might want to pull up a chair when the Blue Jays are at bat. The Blue Jays led the American League in most major offensive categories last year and you can expect more of the same in 2016. Led the reigning AL MVP in third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have four players returning to their lineup that hit at least 20 home runs. It is truly pick your poison with the Jays lineup as they are the modern “Murderers Row” with Donaldson, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, outfielder Jose Bautista, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and catcher Russell Martin. And with all of that power in the Jays lineup, it will be imperative for players such as outfielder Kevin Pillar to get on base ahead of the big bats in the Blue Jays batting order.
Last season the Blue Jays team earned run average was fifth in the American League at 3.80, but they also lost two starting pitchers from last year’s squad. Last July, the Jays acquired starting pitcher David Price from the Detroit Tigers and he was a horse from Toronto down the stretch of the regular season. Price went 9-1 with a 2.30 earned run average in 11 starts for the Jays. But Price decided to join the Boston Red Sox in free agency. Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle led the Jays in wins last season with 15, but after 16 Major League Baseball seasons, he elected to retire. For Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, he is hopeful that his younger starting pitchers in Drew Hutchinson, Marco Estrada, and Marcus Stroman will be able to take over the reigns as far as being at the top of rotation. 2015 saw relief pitcher Roberto Osuna save 20 games for the Blue Jays, and if he is able to flirt with closing at least 30 games for Toronto this year, it should signal good things north of the border.
The majority of the Blue Jays schedule in April will be against the American League East, and a strong start could put them in the catbird’s seat real early.
Y-Boston Red Sox 88-75 (5)*
With the exception of winning the World Series Championship in 2013, the past four years have been a struggle for the Boston Red Sox. In three out of the last four years, the Red Sox have finished in the basement of the American League East. The Red Sox have struggled over the past few years as they’ve appeared to be a team without a plan due to the fact that they want to first go for the youth movement until they decide to go crazy as far as spending in free agency. Things began to change for the Red Sox last year when former Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski became the team’s new president of baseball operations. Dombrowski’s arrival signaled the end of Ben Cherington as the Red Sox general manager as he was replaced by Mike Hazen. But make no mistake about it that Dombrowski is the man that will be calling the shots.
On the field the Red Sox are happy to have manager John Farrell back. Last year Farrell was diagnosed with lymphoma and he underwent treatment as he missed the last two months of the Major League Baseball season.
Farrell, Dombrowski, and the Red Sox have set out to repair the Red Sox pitching staff that’s team earned run average of 4.31 was 14th in the American League last year. The Red Sox also allowed opposing hitters to have a .264 batting average along with a .327 on-base percentage which were each the third highest in the AL.
Since 2008, starting pitcher David Price has been a thorn in the side of the Red Sox. That year Price made his Major League Baseball debut as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays and he helped to prevent the Red Sox from repeating as World Series Champions with Tampa’s big victory over Boston in the American League Championship Series. Along with the Rays, Price has pitched for the Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays as the 6’6″ left-hander can keep hitters off balance. Price won the American League Cy Young Award in 2012 along with being a five-time AL All-Star. And once Price became an unrestricted free agent over the winter, the Red Sox were fed up with him terrorizing them as they signed him to a seven-year, $217 million contract. But we’ll have to wait and see if the Red Sox gave up too much to get Price.
Aside from Price, the Red Sox acquired relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres. In the last five years, Kimbrel has saved 252 games and he’s looking to avoid a second consecutive slow start to the season as he introduces his fiery fastball to the American League.
There has been some reshuffling to the Red Sox lineup as the Hanley Ramirez experiment in left field is done. Ramirez will be playing first base for Boston, but you never know if he is a player that will be focused for the full 162-game regular season. The Red Sox are hopeful that third baseman Pablo Sandoval will be more comfortable during his second year in Boston, but the conditioning that plagued his time with the San Francisco Giants could be a factor once again; although he did arrive at spring training in better shape this year. The Red Sox do have stalwarts in their lineup with shortstop Xander Bogaerts and second baseman Dustin Pedroia. But make no mistake about that the heart and soul of this Red Sox team is designated hitter David Ortiz.
Ortiz has announced that 2016 will be his last Major League Baseball season and the team hopes to rally around him as he has meant so much to the organization for more than a decade.
The Red Sox will possess one of the fastest outfields in Major League Baseball with Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Rusney Castillo. And if each player is able to have a solid year, it could point Boston to the postseason.
The Red Sox will still need to pick up another starting pitcher in order to become a legitimate playoff contender, and I don’t see Dombrowski resting on his laurels in order to get Boston back to the postseason.
New York Yankees 86-76
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows how to get the most out his players as he is a master motivator. Last season the Yankees went 87-75 and made the playoffs with a team that was kept together by spit and glue. The Yankees are a team that is currently influx as they are in the process of trying to shed some of the bloated contracts that they have attached to veteran players while also developing young talent within their system. The Yankees will once again exceed the luxury tax threshold in 2016 as their team payroll will easily be over $200 million, but that hasn’t stopped team general manager Brian Cashman from going to work this off-season to get New York back to the postseason in 2016.
The Yankees team earned run average of 4.08 was eighth in the American League and their 72 quality starts were 13th as New York’s starting rotation lacks pitchers that can consistently pitch deep into games. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia is 35-years of age with a bad knee and plenty of mileage on his arm as he is rapidly breaking down. Elbow issues for starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka continue to put a ton of question marks around his overall effectiveness while Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda have each been inconsistent. Starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi did lead the Yankees in wins last season with 14, but his 4.20 earned run average was aided by a New York lineup that swung the bats tremendously when he took the mound. The Yankees are thin in starting pitching which led Cashman to getting creative over the winter.
The Yankees already possessed two of the best relief pitchers in Major League Baseball last year in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Cashman added to that when he acquired relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds. Chapman comes to New York as a four-time National League All-Star who has saved 145 games over the last four years for the Reds. And what Chapman gives the Yankees is more depth in their bullpen. Chapman, Betances, and Miller were three of the toughest bullpen pitchers for hitters to make contact on last season and the Yankees are letting it be known that if you want to score runs on them, you had better do it early.
But all is not well with the Yankees bullpen due to the fact that Girardi tends to use his relievers a ton due to the inability of his starters to go deep into games. Last season Betances made 74 appearances while Miller made 60, and coming down the stretch of the regular season, neither one of these pitches had anything left which could once again be a problem in 2016.
Offensively, the Yankees have the potential to be feast or famine in 2016. After being suspended for the entire 2014 Major League Baseball season due to his use of performance-enhancing drugs, designated hitter Alex Rodriguez came back as a force last year to prove to people that he’s still got it. Rodriguez managed to lead the Yankees in home runs with 33 while he put New York on his back for lengthy periods the season. But at the age of 40, can the Yankees really expect another season like that from A-Rod?
Like Rodriguez, veteran first baseman Mark Teixeira is an aging player. Teixeira will be 36-years of age next month, and the injury bug is beginning to catch up to him as he only appeared in 111 games last season. The Yankees were counting on Greg Bird to get more playing time at first base in 2016, but a torn labrum will put him on the shelf for the entire campaign. Veteran outfielder/designated hitter Carlos Beltran did lead the Yankees in batting average last season, but it was only with a .275 batting average. Beltran will be 39-years of age next month, and like Teixeira, his skills are diminishing. The contract of outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury appears to be another one that the Yankees are going to be stuck with while you have to wonder if the front office in the Bronx has given up on outfielder Brett Gardner.
The Yanks will face a tough schedule right out of the chute with series’ against the Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays. And a slow start by the Yankees could bring out the naysayers in New York, but Girardi won’t allow his team to succumb to the white noise as they will play tough all season long.
Baltimore Orioles 86-76
After winning the American League East in 2014, there were some people that expected the Baltimore Orioles to once again contend for the division title last year. I wasn’t one of those people as the Orioles had simply lost too much in free agency in order to contend. And my theory about the O’s proved correct as they finished with a record of 81-81. Orioles owner Peter Angelos has been notorious as far as keeping it close to the chest in regards to spending which makes things a little tougher for Baltimore to consistently field a contender. But if there is a guy that can make lemonade out of lemons, it is O’s manager Buck Showalter.
Since Showalter joined the Orioles, the team has only had one losing season under him. Showalter has a no-nonsense approach while he puts a ton of attention on baseball fundamentals which means that he attempts to make the O’s sound in each phase of the game along with not beating themselves.
The Orioles recent success has been centered around outfielder Adam Jones. Jones has spent the majority of his Major League Baseball career with the Orioles where he has become the face of the franchise in Baltimore. Jones has made five All-Star Game appearances and you should once again be able to pencil him in to hit at least 25 home runs while driving in 85 runs. And another solid campaign by Jones in 2016 should see him move into the top 20 of the Orioles all-time WAR list.
Third baseman Manny Machado was the third overall pick of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Orioles and after a knee injury threatened to hamper is baseball career, he has become one of the best third basemen in the game as he could be in the running to be American League MVP this year.
First baseman/designated hitter Chris Davis led the American League in home runs last year with 47. It was Davis’ walk year and he was expected to receive a huge payday this winter; just not in Baltimore. However Angelos and the Orioles shocked many people when they came to an agreement with Davis on a seven-year deal that is worth $161 million. Davis is that classic power hitter as he strikes out a ton along with going deep, but the Orioles feel that he is worth the risk.
For the first time in a few years, catcher Matt Wieters is healthy for the Orioles, and they should get a stellar season out of him as he is set to hit free agency next winter while infielder Jonathan Scoop is on the verge of being a breakout player.
The Orioles pitching staff isn’t littered with Cy Young talent, but they all possess a strong with ethic. And if this O’s starting pitching staff that includes Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman can get the ball to relief pitcher Zach Britton in the ninth inning, Baltimore will have a shot to be a playoff team in 2016.
The Orioles should hang around in the playoff race until the very end and it will be interesting to see if general manager Dan Duquette will be willing to trade some prospects to make his team a surefire contender.
Tampa Bay Rays 78-84
The magic appears to have finally run out for the Tampa Bay Rays. After six consecutive winning seasons from 2008-2013, the Rays have finished each of the last two Major League Baseball seasons with losing records. Rays president of baseball operations/general manager Matthew Silverman and manager Kevin Cash are set to begin their second year working together and they’ll once again have their hands full as they attempt to compete in the American League East.
The Rays will once again have one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball as they play in a small media market along with the fact that they struggle with home attendance at Tropicana Field.
In recent years pitching has been the backbone of the Rays organization as they had the fourth lowest earned run average in the American League last season and they’ll once again need to be one of the better staffs in baseball in order to give Tampa a chance.
If the Rays will be able to give starting pitcher Chris Archer consistent run support, he could be in the conversation as far as winning the American League Cy Young Award. Archer will also look to break his single-season strikeout record that he set just last year when he struck out 252 batters. Arm issues have derailed what once appeared to be a promising Major League Baseball career for starting pitcher Matt Moore, but the Rays are hopeful that this is the year in which he is able to put it all together.
Aside from Archer and Moore, the Rays have solid starting pitchers in Alex Colome, Alex Cobb, Erasmo Ramirez, and Jake Odorizzi that could put a damper into the chances of the contenders in the American League East. The Rays pitching staff must also get accustomed to a new catcher behind the plate in Hank Conger who was acquired from the Houston Astros in December.
Relief pitcher Brad Boxberger saved 41 games for the Rays last season, and if Tampa falls out of the race in the AL East early on, I can see Silverman looking to trade him.
Offense was a struggle for the Rays in the 2015 as they were 14th in the American League in runs scored and it should once again be the case this year. The only way that the Rays will be able to stay afloat in the American League East is if third baseman Evan Longoria has an MVP-caliber campaign while they are also hopeful that outfielder Desmond Jennings will be able to remain healthy.
Under Cash, the Rays will be an up and down team in 2016, but they will compete on a nightly basis.
Y-Wild Card Winner
It’s been 22 years since the Toronto Blue Jays last made the postseason and a lot has changed on the baseball scene in Canada since then. The Montreal Expos left Canada in 2004 to become the Washington Nationals which left the Blue Jays as the only Major League Baseball team to not call the United States home. But the Jays have become a forgotten team in the American League East. Since Toronto won the World Series in 1993, they’ve watched the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox combine to win the Fall Classic eight times while every team in the AL East with the exception of the Blue Jays, has won the division title at least two times over that stretch. But Toronto is out to change that this season.
In recent years, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been active as far as making deals to turn the fortunes of Toronto around. In 2013, the Blue Jays acquired starting pitcher R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets while also making a move to obtain starting pitcher Mark Buehrle and shortstop Jose Reyes from the Miami Marlins. In 2013, the Jays were only able to win 74 games, but last year they went 83-79 as they finished five victories short of the final wild card spot in the American League.
This season the Jays have been a team that is hovered around the .500 mark, but they could be ready to take their game to another level.
Leading up to the MLB trade deadline, Anthopoulos was very active. The Blue Jays traded Reyes to the Colorado Rockies along with three minor league players in exchange for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. This past Thursday would see the Jays strike a deal with the Detroit Tigers to acquire starting pitcher David Price and just prior to the deadline, they were also able to get outfielder Ben Revere from the Philadelphia Phillies. The moves to bring in Tulowitzki and Price have brought excitement to the fan base in Toronto as it could be just what the doctor ordered to get the Blue Jays to the postseason this October.
This year the Blue Jays are 12th in the American League in both quality starts (47) and team earned run average (3.99) But not since the days of starting pitcher Roy Halladay have the Blue Jays had a player in their rotation that was a true ace which changes now with Price. Price fits that mold of an ace as he is a pitcher that you want on the mound to start a winning streak, stop a losing streak, and the Jays are hopeful that he’ll ultimately begin a playoff series for them this October. Price has a career earned run average of 3.13 and he also won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. Price is in the final year of his contract as he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this winter which means that he’ll be in line for a hefty payday. The Blue Jays decided to roll the dice in acquiring Price who should pitch lights out for them coming down the stretch due to the fact that he’s looking to get paid in the off-season.
Price’s presence in the Blue Jays starting rotation also pushes Dickey and Buehrle who are both veteran pitchers further down in the pecking order. Dickey throws the unpredictable knuckle ball while Buehrle is a “junk” pitcher who no longer has to feel the strain of attempting to carry the Blue Jays starting rotation.
But as bad as Toronto’s pitching has been this year, their lineup makes up for it. The Blue Jays have one of the top offenses in Major League Baseball as they are first in the American League in runs scored (556) and slugging (.443), while they are third in home runs with 142, as they have some fierce power hitters in their lineup in the form of Tulowitzki, third baseman Josh Donaldson, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, and outfielder Jose Bautista. And with all of that power, it is surprising that the Blue Jays have only struck out 732 times this year which is just 11th in the AL as once you factor in catcher Russell Martin whom Anthopoulos signed last winter, there really isn’t a perceived soft spot within Toronto’s batting order.
The Blue Jays entered play today tied with the Baltimore Orioles for second place in the American League East as each team is six games behind the Yankees while Toronto is just a game behind the Minnesota Twins for the final wild card slot on the Junior Circuit. I previously commented earlier this season that the Yankees, Orioles, and Blue Jays will fight for the title in the AL East as now Toronto has a full squad that can close the gap on New York within the division. And what the additional wild card spot has done is to give more teams hope as far as making the postseason which is good news for the Blue Jays who are looking to end the longest current drought in Major League Baseball without reaching the playoffs.
The old adage is that pitching wins championships and if the Blue Jays were to find themselves in a one-game, wild card playoff, they have a guy in Price that can get the job done as he proved that by pitching the Rays past the Texas Rangers in 2013 in a one-game playoff to get Tampa to the American League Wild Card Game. And the Blue Jays definitely have the hitting lineup behind Price and the other pitchers that will keep them in games coming down the stretch of the season.
Toronto has won three out of their last four games and you can feel the buzz that is building there as the folks are coming to the Rogers Centre to support their beloved Blue Jays. From 1985-1993, the Blue Jays won the American League East five times with the last two titles being the prelude for them winning the World Series. Those Blue Jays teams enjoyed tremendous balance as they had tremendous hitting with the likes of Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar while they had solid starting pitching with the likes of Jimmy Key and Dave Stieb. For Anthopoulos and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, they could be potentially riding the wave of something special down the stretch of the regular season. And as teams can still put a waiver claim on a player until August 31, the Blue Jays and Anthopoulos aren’t necessarily done upgrading as this team could still use some help in the bullpen. But these next two months could be very special for the Blue Jays and their fan base in Toronto.